Exactly 90 years ago, Ian Fleming presented to the world his discovery, the most important in medicine of the last century: an antibiotic! The first antibiotic, penicillin, was isolated from a mold that accidentally entered a colony of Staphylococcus aureus in a laboratory Petri dish.

But this beneficial fungus is far from the only one. Many of his “comrades” who inhabit the world around us and even our body are not at all so useful. Fungi can coexist with a person without harm for a long time, but if his immunity suddenly decreases, then they begin an attack. And since in children the immune system is just being formed, they are in a high risk group for mycoses. Let’s get to know the enemy by sight and get acquainted with dangerous fungi, their ways of entering the body and methods of treatment.

Fungi around us: good and different

Mushrooms are not only chanterelles, champignons or truffles, their world is huge and diverse. Mushrooms are inhabitants of all three elements, water, earth and air, they grow on trees and in soil, develop in the organisms of animals, birds and even insects.

Due to changes in the environment, mushrooms are increasingly beginning to settle next to a person: they are in houses and apartments, especially if there is poor ventilation and high humidity. They readily multiply on grain crops, in food, in the same bread, on fruits and vegetables.

The very useful ” Fleming ” fungus is also present everywhere. Even the ancient Egyptians knew a remedy for festering wounds: moldy bread soaked in water. And the history of the isolation of pure penicillin in industrial quantities remembers “Moldy Mary”: Mary Hunt’s laboratory assistant, whose duty was to buy all tainted food for research.  

The best strain for penicillin, by the way, contrary to the legends about black bread, was found on a melon. But in the USSR they did not reach vegetables: when, in 1941, intelligence reported that a supernova and effective drug was being created from mold in Great Britain, our mycologists began to look for properties in various molds. And just a year later, our mycologist Zinaida Ermolyeva isolated penicillin from a fungus that grew on the wall of a Moscow bomb shelter. Two years later, the first antibiotic was used in the treatment of the wounded.

Mushrooms exist in our body, and they do not just “lodge”, but perform useful functions: they help the digestion of food and have a beneficial effect on metabolic processes. But as soon as they have a chance to reproduce well, they become obvious enemies.

Pathogenic fungi include mold, yeast and yeast-like fungi, dermatophytes . Doctors have known about fungal skin lesions for a long time, although the cause of the disease remained unknown. Dermatophytes were discovered in 1839 by I. L. Shenlein , or rather, he discovered the causative agent of the mysterious disease “favus”, known in our country as “scab” or chronic mycosis, and named it by his own name – Achorion schoenleinii . From this discovery, the history of medical mycology, the science of fungi that infect a person or live in harmony with him, began.

Mushrooms are harvested in autumn

Dermatophytes are those mushrooms whose activity doctors note in the fall, and a little less in the spring. They are the ones that cause the fungal infections most commonly known as ringworm. The causative agents of this lichen are fungi of the genera Microsporum and Trichophyton . Its symptoms are pockets of broken hair and affected skin, always ring-shaped. In English, such foci, by the way, are called “ring worms”, ringworm .

These fungi can live not only on hairy areas, but also simply on the skin. Then the main “folk” sign of ringworm – broken and fallen hair – for obvious reasons is absent.

These fungi need keratin, so they can settle exclusively on the skin, hair and nails, structures containing this protein, they do not penetrate into the body. Some dermatophytes can be transmitted from person to person through direct contact or indirectly, through objects, others are contained in the soil or are transferred from animals. Moreover, in animals, the course of the disease may be asymptomatic, without foci. The pathways and characteristics of immunity lead to the fact that the largest group of patients with lichen is children. In second place are young women.

Diagnosis of dermatophytosis is carried out not only by external examination. The best option is a combination of examination with a Wood lamp (ultraviolet rays) and microscopic examination of skin or hair scales.

All mycoses are divided into two groups: superficial fungal diseases and deep ones. Lichens, mycoses of the nails can be detected on examination. And deep ones, of which there are about 20 species, affect the internal organs. Unfortunately, most of these mycoses are detected already at a progressive stage. At the initial stage, only a mycologist can often determine the presence of these diseases.

The most common and most famous causative agent of deep mycoses is the yeast-like fungus Candida , the cause of candidiasis. However, it is able to cause not only candidiasis of the vagina or oral cavity, but also penetrate deep inside, settle in the intestines, joints, tissues of the lungs, kidneys. Most often, with deep mycosis, it gives out its presence with bronchitis, pneumonia, sinusitis, inflammation of the esophagus, intestines, in adult men, prostatitis.

The characteristic clinical manifestations also include cough, itching, burning, discharge from the urethra, vagina, unstable stools, whitish curdled deposits on the mucous membranes and the lack of effect from treatment with antibacterial drugs. 

Mold spores

Another fairly common pathology that threatens adults and, in particular, children is mycosis mold. It leads to aspergillosis, penicilliosis , zygomycosis , monosporidiosis , curvullariasis . The causative agent of such diseases, Aspergillus fungi are very common around us. This is a white or greenish mold on rotten wood, bread and fruit, vegetables, and homemade canned food.

Spores of this mold penetrate the body during inhalation and settle in the bronchi and on the alveoli of the lungs. If there are few of them, they are excreted due to the self-cleaning function of the airways. But if they get in large quantities or the child is already sick, then poisoning occurs and Aspergillus mycotoxicosis develops .

The most dangerous of all are fungi that multiply in wood. Aspergillus that grow on food is less aggressive. So, mycologists say that small mold spots on baked goods or dry fruits and apples can be cut out, and the remaining healthy person can eat. But if mold is seen in juicy fruits, especially near the seed, you must discard the whole fruit. The same applies to moldy nuts.

They also act with compotes, juices, syrups, throw them away without pity. Here jam and jam can be carefully separated from the moldy layer and, ideally, heated to a boil.

Cottage cheese and yoghurts with mold can not be eaten categorically. A small patch of mold on the cheeses, as long as it is on the surface and has not penetrated into the head, is not dangerous if it is properly removed. Well, the well-known cheeses “Roquefort”, “Dor Blue “, etc., from special molds, only benefit in taste. Although doctors recommend acquainting children with them later.

Who is at risk?

At risk for deep mycoses are children, especially those with chronic diseases, inflammatory processes, who have undergone surgical interventions. So, bronchial asthma causes a “positive” reaction to fungi in 50% of cases. Chronic bronchitis, diabetes mellitus are factors of increased risk of mycosis. But it can develop in full health, especially if there is stress in the child’s life, a violation of the diet, daily regimen or serious injuries.

Periodontal disease, untreated caries, chronic tonsillitis and an unbalanced diet can also “awaken” fungi in the body. Lack of food or, conversely, overeating. Anything that negatively affects the immune system.

Antibiotics and fungi: who wins?

Long-term use of antibiotics and hormonal drugs increases the risk of developing mycoses in children and adults. Treatment of such systemic fungal diseases is also carried out with antibiotics, but not the usual, but antifungal profile. By the way, like the first antibiotics, they were originally of natural origin: some antimycotic drugs are produced by bacteria of the Streptomycetaceae family , Streptomycetes .   

But you need to know that antifungal medication alone is not enough. An important part of the therapy for mycoses is the “anti-fungal” diet, in which carbohydrate-rich foods must be excluded. They raise blood sugar, and sugar is an excellent breeding ground for the fungus.

A recent clinical case is indicative: an elderly patient with diabetes mellitus, chronic inflammation of the genitourinary system and violent behavior was admitted to a US hospital. The men found alcohol in their urine, although he certainly did not drink.

As it turned out, due to the increased amount of sugar in diabetes, bacteria and fungi actively multiplied and caused fermentation in the bladder. And as a result of fermentation, ethanol compounds were formed, that is, alcohol was produced inside the human body.

In addition to avoiding carbohydrates (sweets, pasta, cereals and bakery products, sweet fruits and berries), it is recommended to exclude from the diet everything that is cooked with yeast. During treatment, you will have to limit all foods that load the liver: fatty meats, rich broths, canned, smoked foods, fried foods. Vegetables, low-fat types of cottage cheese, sour cream, all fermented milk products, especially “live” kefirs, yoghurts, acidophilus, lean meat, poultry and fish in boiled or stewed form, are left in the diet. At the end of the treatment, a course of probiotics can be recommended .


Although there are useful mushrooms, many of those who help us, at the slightest danger, cease to be “friends.” It is not difficult to protect a child from them: it is enough to monitor proper nutrition, daily routine and hygiene. And if you have the slightest doubt, you should limit the use of sweets and consult a mycologist.

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